One of the most contentious issues during the EU Referendum was – it goes without saying – immigration, and specifically the subject of free movement within EU countries. However, the system that enables foreign nationals from other EU member states to be ‘fast-tracked’ into the UK to serve as convenient cheap labour – whether in a Sports Direct sweat-shop or as an au pair to Notting Hill twats – doesn’t necessarily mean they intend to put down permanent roots in Blighty. Many make as much cash as they can and then take it back home; but that fact was glossed over by those who stood to gain from their demonisation as it aided the Brexit cause.

We have been here before, though. Up until the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, all citizens of British colonies and overseas territories had full UK citizenship and were entitled to set up home in the Mother Country. Natives of nations with whom we had long-standing cultural and historical ties had been raised to believe Britain was their homeland, and those who arrived on these shores in the immediate post-war era contrasted with many recent ‘economic migrants’ in that their aim was to build new lives for themselves. Unfortunately, that didn’t prevent racial tensions in areas that experienced high immigration levels in the 60s and 70s. Further moving of the goalposts, not especially aided by the inflammatory language of Enoch Powell, came with other immigration acts in 1968, 1971 and 1981.

Those born in Hong Kong found their status as British subjects particularly affected by these changes; but Mrs Thatcher was aware of China’s impending takeover of our last imperial possession in the Far East and sought to stem an expected tide of immigration from Hong Kong, something that was heightened after the 1989 events in Tiananmen Square. Such circumstances didn’t – and don’t – apply to Britain’s lingering Mediterranean outpost, however. Gibraltar is also uncomfortably close to a large unfriendly neighbour with vague territorial claims, though there is no handover earmarked where Spain is concerned. As a consequence, the 30,000 strong population there is often more defiantly British than Britain itself.

Since being ceded to Britain in perpetuity as part of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht – following its capture by an Anglo-Dutch force during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704 – Gibraltar has been a permanent thorn in the side of relations between Britain and Spain, often surfacing in the most bizarre manner, such as accusations that General Franco ‘fixed’ it so that Cliff’s ‘Congratulations’ lost the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest to the Spanish entry at the eleventh hour. Its status as a British Overseas Territory may seem antiquated today, but its origins as such are very much in tune with how European powers settled disagreements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using the odd strategic island or peninsular as bargaining chips. Cyprus was acquired by Britain from the Ottoman Empire in not dissimilar circumstances.

The nascent Brexit negotiations have already thrust Gibraltar back onto the front pages; lest we forget, though, Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly in favour of Remain during the EU Referendum last year, being the first result to be declared that eventful evening – something that gave false hope to Remainers in the UK. The revelation that a clause in draft guidelines drawn up by Brussels mandarins suggests Brexit negotiations won’t include Gibraltar unless there is an agreement between Spain and the UK has provoked anger both here and on the Rock.

The draft negotiating guidelines state: ‘After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.’ In response, Andrew Rosindell, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gibraltar, commented: ‘British people must and will stand together. We cannot be bullied by Spain. Any agreement must apply equally to the whole British family and that includes Gibraltar. There can be no compromise on this.’

Spain’s claims on Gibraltar have no more proper legal standing than Argentina’s claims on the Falklands, so to evoke the Spanish on this issue was guaranteed to enflame patriotic passions. Both Theresa May and Boris Johnson have responded to the EU proposals re Gibraltar by emphasising again that the concerns of the people of Gibraltar will not excised from the negotiations. And it’s worth remembering that Gibraltarians have twice voted overwhelmingly ‘no’ to shared sovereignty between the UK and Spain in referendums (in 1967 and 2002); moreover, the border between Spain and Gibraltar was only permanently opened after decades of petulance on the part of the Spanish when Spain joined the EEC in 1985.

If one excludes the Episkopi Cantonment enclave of Cyprus, essentially a military anomaly since the island’s independence in 1960, Gibraltar is unique amongst the fourteen remaining British Overseas Territories in that it is not some distant landmass in the Caribbean or South Atlantic, but essentially sits on Britain’s doorstep. Its presence during the EU Referendum may have seemed incongruous, considering it has no British Parliamentary constituency, but it certainly had a right to be there.

Whether or not one believes leftovers from the Empire should be ceded to their nearest neighbours, the Gibraltarians themselves are steadfast in their loyalty to the Crown and their preferences should be taken into account. It appears yet one more strand to the tangled web of Brexit needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

© The Editor


9 thoughts on “ROCK ON!

  1. Meh, if the Spanish get uppity we should just recognise Catalonia as an independent nation. What’s good for the Gib is good for the Spaniard, as the old saying almost goes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Same applies, of course, to the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Cueta in North Africa, otherwise part of Morocco. Would the Spanish be amenable to ceding those ? Thought not.

    However, all those historic anomalies around the world must eventually be resolved, like Northern Ireland, the Channel islands (they’re really French), the Falklands etc. Of course, emotions run high and politics has to be played out, so they become bargaining chips to prove patriotism or anything else convenient at the time. The Spanish have not helped their case but maybe, as they grow up, they may learn how to play the long game.

    There is no longer any financial or military logic to holding onto Gibraltar, but it will remain a geographical anachronism as long as its population is democratically committed to the current status. We know that there is a long-term master-plan for Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic, it just needs similar processes to be put in place to shift the opinions in the other remote territories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Everything I’ve read about Gibraltar suggests to me it is an utterly boring place. Therefore I would like to propose a compromise – that ye Brits offer to hand it back in exchange for Marbella, which I’m told is rather fun and practically a British colony anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have never particularly rated Howard, but I did not hitherto realise that he has become quite unhinged, possibly senile. Sad for his family, but his comments should really spark a rebuttal/disassociation from Number 10 (while, of course, emphasising that the wishes of the vast majority of the population of Gibraltar to remain British citizens must be respected).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Howard’s approach is just silly. I have no dog in any British vs Spanish dogfight but commonsense suggests to me that you don’t threaten to send in a destroyer when you can use cutting sarcasm ( as that wise old battler Lord Heseltine did recently in his letter to Teresa May : )

    Something along the lines of :

    “We note the recent comments inserted in the ‘draft negotiating guidelines’ around ‘Brexit’ referring to the constitutional status of Gibraltar and attributed to the Government of the Kingdom of Spain, a country which joined the community of free nations of the world in 1975.

    We look forward to the input of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain into the ongoing negotiations around ‘Brexit’, and to this end we would welcome a statement from the Prime Minister of Spain re-affirming his commitment to the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 and the repeatedly expressed democratic wishes of the vast majority of the citizens of Gibraltar in the referenda of 1967 and 2002. “

    Liked by 1 person

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